[Photo credit - Chris Scott]
It started off with the discovery of a tiny tree book sculpture, now known as the ‘Poetree’, being discovered by librarians at the Scottish Poetry Library in March 2011. Since then, several of these delicate book sculptures have popped up in a variety of Edinburgh’s cultural institutions.
The only clue that we have been given as to who this talented local sculptor is “a woman, who had been a girl, whose life would have been less rich had she been unable to wander freely into libraries, art galleries and museums”. This is Edinburgh is delighted to have been given the chance to ask the mysterious Book Sculptor a few questions about what they love most about Edinburgh’s City of Literature.
What makes you proud to live and work Edinburgh?
I’ve never said I live and work in Edinburgh... I may or may not. True, the Book project has centred on the city and without doubt it is a place I adore, but who I am and where I live or work is, in a way, irrelevant.
Do you remember getting your first library card? What did it mean to you?
No, I don’t actually recall my first library card, but then neither do I recall a time without one. My mum always read to me. I was lucky.
Why do you think it’s so important to promote publicly accessible cultural institutions?
In practical terms, this means that libraries stay open and that galleries and museums remain free to enter. I think that the opportunities they present make for a richer more interesting life. And let’s not forget the idea of refuge. Warm quiet buildings full of treasures.
[Poetree - Photo Credit Chris Scott]
Was this the main inspiration around creating the sculptures?
The main inspiration in creating the sculptures was to find a way to be heard, in a quiet bookish way, and shout out in support of libraries in the face of them being axed and threatened.
The first one in the poetry library which they called the ‘poetree’ was a book made into a tree. The idea, crude maybe, was to show that books are more than they seem. They give us ideas, answer questions, take us on journeys, conjure up images, make our hearts sing... allow us to weep...
The sculptures are there to make you read the tags, which hold the message: ‘In support of libraries, books, words, ideas...'
How long does it take to construct a sculpture?
You need to allow about a month really to make one, but the book sculpture I’m making at the moment (the very last) is taking ages.
I put out a call on my twitter account last summer asking for everyone who loves libraries to make and send a butterfly to a receiving address in Edinburgh. It was wonderful, loads flew in, sometimes with notes... They came from Edinburgh, other parts of Scotland, UK, Germany, Spain, Greece, USA... but it has to be said most came from Edinburgh! Anyway, this work is incorporating all these butterflies, and everyone’s love for libraries.
Have you ever been close to being caught when trying to “install” a sculpture?
No, I've never felt close to being caught. I’m not one to turn eyes and if you’re sneaking something into a cultural centre most people’s thoughts and eyes are elsewhere.
Do you have a favourite out of the sculptures you’ve created so far?
Ooh now, if I did I wouldn’t say. It would be like admitting a favourite child.
[Free to Fly - Photo credit Paul de Roo]
Edinburgh has lots of great independent book shops and sites of literary heritage. Which would you recommend people go to visit?
Take the city on foot if you can and explore. The best places are the ones you discover for yourself. Stumbled upon at the foot of a close. Or fallen into when the hill has won. One visit can never be enough.
There are many treasures along the way. Take the kids to The Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield... be charitable and visit Stockbridge's Oxfam that is all books... saunter down to Leith and dive into Elvis Shakespeare to get out of the rain... The list could go on and on and they are best happened upon.
What’s your favourite Edinburgh literature story or fact?
The city itself is a wonder. Ian Rankin says ’The stories are in the stones’, so drink it all in. (He’d recommend The Oxford Bar for that).
Where is your favourite spot in Edinburgh to relax and get stuck into a book?
No one favourite spot. The Meadows on a summer's day. Sitting beside the Waters of Leith. Up outside the Dean Galleries (also known as Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art One and Two). Jumping on a bus to Portobello sitting on the beach. If it’s chilly... the Film House Café Bar before a movie. Sunk into a deckchair at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
But really... the best bookshop, the best café, the best place will be the one you find yourself.
When you hear the words “This is Edinburgh” what springs to mind?
... How great is that.